§ Mr. Mitchell
To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will estimate for each financial year since 1996–97 the extra expenditure on pensions and the amount of this year's pension if the link between pensions and earnings had been restored immediately before the year in question. 
§ Mr. Rooker
The information requested is in the table.
Year Assumed rate of basic Retirement Pension (£ per week) Gross cost (£ billion) Net cost (£ billion) 1996–97 — 0.7 0.6 1997–98 — 1.3 1.1 1998–99 — 1.5 1.3 1999–00 — 2.1 1.8 2000–01 73.60 3.5 3.1
1. Assumed rates of basic Retirement Pension have been uprated by the higher prices or earnings growth at each uprating from April 1995 onwards. Rates have been rounded to the nearest 5p at each uprating.
2. Earnings growth is based on the seasonally adjusted average earnings index in the three months to July of the previous year, as originally published. Price inflation is the previous September figure.
3. Gross costs have been estimated by the Government Actuary's Department. Costs net of income-related benefit savings have been estimated using the DSS Policy Simulation Model.
4. Costs include benefits whose rates are linked to the rate of basic Retirement Pension.
5. Costs are rounded to the nearest £100 million, are in £ billion and are expressed in 2000–01 prices.
§ Fiona Mactaggart
To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what estimate he has made of the length of time taken between an application for ACT payment for pensions and the date when payment is received into the pensioner's bank account. 
§ Mr. Rooker
The administration of benefit payments is a matter for Alexis Cleveland the Chief Executive of the Benefits Agency. She will write to my hon. Friend.
Letter from Alexis Cleveland to Fiona Mactaggart, dated 9 June 2000:The Secretary of State for Social Security has asked me to reply to your recent Parliamentary question asking what estimate he has made of the length of time taken between an application for Automated Credit Transfer (ACT) payment for pensions and the date when payment is received into the pensioner's bank account.Customers wishing to receive payment by ACT must fill in the appropriate form of application, which includes a declaration that they have read and accept the conditions under which it is offered.Applications for ACT payment can be received with new claims, which are subject to a clearance target of 60 days, or as a change to an existing pensioner's method of payment. The length of time taken has therefore been gauged from the time of processing the application, which in both instances should be the same.Except in the case of weekly sums under £5, which are paid annually, currently customers have the option of receiving ACT payments at 4 weekly or 13 weekly intervals. Payment is received in the pensioner's bank account on the last banking day of the 4 or 13 week period.487WIf there are two full weeks or more left in the current ACT period when the application is processed a payment for that period is made accordingly. Where only one week remains this is added to the payment for the first full period. The longest time a customer must wait for payment is therefore normally limited to 5 weeks or 14 weeks.I hope this is helpful.